Vaccination of cattle against Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) provides partial protection by delayed shedding of MAP and reduced numbers of clinically affected animals. The duration of vaccine induced immune response is not known. The primary objective of this study was therefore to characterize the long-term effect of whole-cell based vaccination against MAP on the immune response. A secondary objective was to evaluate whether immunodiagnosis of MAP and Mycobacterium bovis infections is affected by MAP vaccination. Two studies were performed: (1) A retrospective longitudinal study including 895 vaccinated and 2526 non-vaccinated dairy cows in 9 Danish dairy herds aiming at characterizing the long-term antibody-response to vaccination; and (2) a cross-sectional study of responses in the IFN-γ assay carried out in 140 vaccinated animals in two herds to evaluate the effect of vaccination on the cell-mediated immune response and to evaluate a possible interference with the diagnosis of M. bovis infections. The results showed that 37% of samples from vaccinated animals and 5% of samples from non-vaccinated animals, respectively, were test positive in the milk antibody ELISA. The prevalence of antibody responses of the vaccinated animals was relatively constant from 2 to 6 years of age, but decreased in older animals. Among the 140 vaccinated animals 88% tested positive with the IFN-γ test to johnin PPD and 50% responded to PPDb with IFN-γ production above a similar cut-off. Although Denmark is free of M. bovis, two of the vaccinated animals responded with higher IFN-γ levels when cultured with PPDb compared to PPDa. In conclusion, immunization with whole-cell MAP vaccines elicits both humoral and cell-mediated immune reactions, which may interfere with surveillance and diagnosis of both MAP and M. bovis infections using currently available tests.
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